The Hidden Dangers of Heat Stroke
With the summer season now upon us, it’s important for anyone planning to spend time in the great outdoors to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and the potential danger associated with this very serious condition. But before we dive deeper into the dangers of heat stroke, let’s first get a better understanding of what heat stroke is.
Heat stroke is a condition where your body overheats to an internal temperature of 103 to 104 F or higher. It is the most severe form of hyperthermia, a condition which occurs when the body’s heat-regulation system becomes overwhelmed by outside factors, causing a person’s internal temperature to rise. The body is absorbing more heat than it can dispel. Heat stroke victims require immediate medical intervention. Without immediate treatment, heatstroke can damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The longer the treatment is delayed, the more severe the damage can be.
Heat stroke can happen to anyone but can be especially dangerous in older adults. Especially those who live in apartments or homes which lack air conditioning or good airflow. The Centers for Disease Control suggests that an older body has more difficulty regulating and adjusting temperature. Certain medications and chronic illnesses can also weaken the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
If you suspect that someone is suffering from heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately. Signs of heat stroke can include:
Signs of a Heat Stroke
- A high body temperature above 103°F
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid or shallow breathing
- Confusion, disorientation, or staggering
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Red, hot, and dry skin
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Rapid heartbeat
If you notice and of these signs and symptoms, call 911 immediately to get help. The 911 dispatcher will be able to provide you with first-aid instruction until paramedics arrive.
Steps to prevent heat stroke in hot conditions:
- Pay attention to the heat index. The Heat Index is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature. (Check the local weather report and they will have the expected heat index for the day and let you know if it’s safe for outdoor activities)
- Stay hydrated
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing (a brimmed hat is also recommended)
- Avoid alcohol or caffeine
- Use sunscreen with a high SPF factor
- Make sure the older adult’s home is well-ventilated
- Draw curtains, shades, or blinds during the hottest part of the day
- Avoid strenuous activity
Knowing the signs of heat stroke and what can be done to prevent it from occurring is vitally important. For more information, visit these websites: